With the launch of Office 2010, the business community is buzzing with the Office 2010 vs. Google Docs debate, but its still not entirely clear as to what is best for SMBs. Meanwhile, Sage launches cloud payment software for small companies.

Forrester: Office 2010 to Take Market

Now that small business users can finally get a look at the full version of Office 2010 following Wednesday’s launch and with the dust starting to settle the real question that business users are going to have to answer is whether they will go for Office 2010, or try economizing by moving to Google Docs.

Given the extent and functionality of Office 2010, for those looking for a full-bodied application Office 2010 would seem to be the only option, and research published by Forrester seems to suggest that most SMBs agree.

Released the day before the launch, the report entitled Enterprises Productivity Plans Include SharePoint 2010 And Office 2010 by Sheri McLeish shows that 81% of companies are running Office 2007 and 78% supporting SharePoint, compared to only 4% using Google Apps.

More significantly, it also show s that close to a third of the 115 US and European enterprise and SMB respondents will be upgrading to Office 2010 in the course of the next year with most looking at installing SharePoint 2010 before turning to Office 2010.

Of those that are using Office competitors, or looking at Office competitors, most said they were using it to complement Office rather than use them as an alternative.

However, if Forrester sees Office 2010 putting its competitors in their place, there is a caveat that Microsoft will need to take heed of in future releases. The Forrester report says:

Common end user barriers to adoption of alternatives include lack of required functionality, third-party integration requirements, user acceptance, lack of seamless interoperability with Office, and legacy content support needs. These gaps will be bridged in the coming years as Google, OpenOffice.org, and others mature.”

In other words, no one out there is going to be sitting on their hands and will spend the next while filling the holes that are currently putting users off.

Google Continues to Poach

And while Forrester is saying that Office alternatives don’t really have enough functionality to really knock it off its pedestal, Google was busily pushing Google Docs as an alternative right up to the Office 2010 launch on Wednesday.

So much so, in fact that on the Google Enterprise blog it was offering SMBs advice on how to use Google as an alternative to upgrading to Office 2010.The post says:

  ...we’d encourage you to consider an alternative: upgrading Office with Google Docs. If you choose this path, upgrade means what it’s supposed to mean: effortless, affordable, and delivering a remarkable increase in employee productivity . . .”

The post continues that recent upgrades to Docs have resulted in improved formatting, speed and functionality.

Anticipating the fact that many companies are still using Office products dating back to the 2003 version, it says that companies using these don’t have to uninstall them and that Docs will complement them. Google will also be adding real-time collaboration abilities in Office 200 and 2007 in the coming months.

That’s all very well and good. However, an unconfirmed post to an article in PC Mag in relation to Office 2010 vs. Google Docs points out that “Google can terminate your account at any time, for any reason, with or without notice, deny access to your stored information.”

Again, this is an unconfirmed posit but if that is in fact the case Google will need to go a long way to reassure business users that Docs is a risk-free option. Interesting times!

But It's All About Web Apps

OK, maybe we’re being a little unfair here as the real stand-off between Office 2010 and Google Docs is not really between the Office 2010 stand-alone application, but between the slimmed down online version of Office 2010 called Web Apps.

While Web Apps won’t be available until June 15 with the general release of Office 2010, it is not outside the realm of possibility that SMB users will wait until then to have a look at that, or the Office Starter edition, which is going to be pre-loaded on to PCs before sale.

Web Apps will be available free to Windows Live users from that date, while volume licensing customers will also have it so that they can run it on their local servers.

While much is being made of the fact that Web Apps doesn’t have the functionality of the standalone version, it was never really meant to be an alternative, but rather something that would head-off the Google Docs challenge by allowing users to work on documents in the cloud.

And there is a substantial difference here. With Office Web Apps, users have all the major document capabilities online and can download files to work locally. With Google, recent upgrades included, users can’t download them and play with them in any Google desktop software.

Sage Introduces Payment Platform in a SaaS Model

Turning aside from the Office 2010 vs. Google Docs debate, financial and accounting software providing Sage (news, site) has just announced that it is now offering a new, secure payment solution that will enable SMBs accept all forms of payment through the cloud.

Sage North America has introduced Sage Exchange, which comes with a new secure, Payment Card Industry (PCI) certified payments platform delivered as SaaS.

Sage Exchange enables all forms and methods of payment, with data integration with other Sage business management software products and third-party business solutions.

While it will be releasing different elements of it over the coming months, the first phases will enable businesses and organizations using many Sage software products to accept credit and debit cards in a secure and Payment Application Data Security Standard (PA-DSS) validated environment while automatically updating accounts receivable records.

Subsequent phases will expand payments integration to distributed credit/debit card and electronic check terminals, or point-of-sale (POS) devices, and a range of integrated payment solutions to the accounts payable side.

Future plans for the platform include support for payroll, procurement, and payables as well as integration with additional complementary business applications.

Another Pay-in-the-Cloud Option

However Sage is not the only one offering new payment options for SMBs. AdvancedEMedia, the developer of the WebJaguar E-commerce platform has just announced that it has integrated the eBillme solutions, secure online payment option.

AdvancedEMedia has already launched eBillme on a number of websites and says that as a result its clients are now picking up business from users that want to pay cash for goods.

The WebJaguar platform enables users automate operations and sales, capture and track leads, follow up and communicate with customers, generate invoices, and easily create promotions.